“Service before self”, “selfishness is taboo”, “he is a bad person as he is selfish”, all such statements and rhetoric are fed to us from childhood and undoubtedly with good intentions. Helping and assisting others is definitely a noble cause which is promoted by all religions and should be practiced. However, the concept of selflessness needs to be relooked from another perspective as well.

Sanjana is good-looking, happily married and tried her best to look presentable during the initial few years of her marriage. However, with passing time interest started waning and the focus shifted to look after the family affairs. The weight started making inroads slowly and all the sane advice from the husband or other family members fell on deaf ears on the excuse of being busy with domestic chores.

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Slightly more pressure led to emotional outburst with Sanjana accusing family members of not valuing her selflessness and sacrifice. To ensure peace at home and not to hurt her, everyone gave up and Sanjana further devoted herself to the family. In her perception, she was absolutely right and extremely satisfied with her selfless devotion as propagated in our culture and scriptures.

As time passed, ignoring health for long ultimately took a toll on her. The resultant pressure on knees due to obesity crippled her knees, making it extremely difficult to move even for basic requirements. Her husband who is still in a job is forced to look after her, which hindered his career progression. Son secured admission into a prestigious foreign university but is in a dilemma to leave the mother in such a state of poor health. Her selfless nature ultimately made her a liability for the family.

Several stories can be quoted on the same theme of selflessness. If you ever noticed in the flights, it is specifically written that “in case of emergency, help yourself before helping others”. The same holds true in real life too to some extent.

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In case you are working hard for yourself to become a good doctor or an engineer in your state or country, go ahead by all means. A selfish doctor or engineer will be an asset to a country rather than a selfless broke.
A hungry man in a street will give hoots to your sermons on selfless service or sacrifice or any other moral obligation. He may even pull out a gun to meet his basic requirements if he is on the brink. Once the stomach is full, the clothes are on and there is a roof on top, only then religion and higher causes make meaning in life.

Rajiv is eldest among three brothers and early demise of the father made him take care of his all siblings. Once they all were settled, Rajiv still continued helping his brothers financially even against the advice of his wife and children. His brothers stripped him of the ancestral property and now no one is in taking terms with each other. Relations with wife and children are also strained for not listening to their advice.

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As the Indian proverb goes “ a naked person cannot take a bath or wash cloth” meaning that someone who cannot take care of himself, cannot take care of others.

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So, it is ok to be selfish sometimes. Be a rich man and then have the magnanimity to donate for the welfare of society. Next time don’t mind when someone says that you are selfish. You will do much better for your family or society compared to a selfless moron.

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